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Acrylic versus Polycarbonate Sheets: Which Plastic Sheet Should You Choose?

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At a glance, acrylic and polycarbonate plastic sheets appear to be similar. Yet, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Spotting a polycarbonate sheet is as easy as checking the edges under natural light for a blue shade. The manufacture of polycarbonate uses a bluing agent. Furthermore, they have different properties in their chemical composition that one should recognize.

Due to the similarities, it may seem as though choosing is hard. So it is useful to be clear that picking either acrylic or polycarbonate is not a matter of which is better.

The choice depends on one that is suitable for the consumer’s purposes.

This article unpacks the essential variations in the two plastic sheets. It will also help the consumer when making choices for the next project.

About the Acrylic Sheets

Acrylic sheet is also known as plexiglas or PMMA (polymethyl methacrylate). Its production is by polymerization of methyl methacrylate. Methyl methacrylate is a combination of methacrylic acid and methyl alcohol. Its most important application is as a replacement for glass. It is 30 times more resistant than glass and much easier to process.

Its Properties

Available and Cheap

It is a cheap alternative to polycarbonate. Since it will not cost as much as PC plastic, it is a good option in applications where material strength is not a must.

Scratch-resistant

It has an outer coat that makes it resilient to scratches resulting from cleaning.

Fade-resistant

An acrylic Product will withstand UV light, salt spraying, moisture without losing its color or sheen.

It has excellent transparency.

Non-toxic

The acrylic plastic sheet does not use the harmful substance bisphenol-A.

Great Bonding Ability

Acrylic has the best bonding capacity with adhesives and also superior weather resistance. It does not fade color with exposure to UV light.

Applications

It has a wide application in the advertisement, building, and decoration fields. The main ones are;

  • For manufacturing LED lighting panels
  • In door and window covers
  • Display products like phone cases and point of sale display cabinets
  • Making gift items and 3D printing filaments.

About Polycarbonate Plastic Sheet

Polycarbonate is a strong thermoplastic sheet ideal for engineering purposes. It combines two carbonate groups in the manufacturing process hence the name polycarbonate.

The outstanding quality of this PC is high resistance to pressure and heat. Hence, it’s the best material for security glazing and vandalism proofing in buildings.

It comes in two types; solid and corrugated sheets. The corrugated has small hollow spaces at the center of the sheet to reduce the weight at the same strength.

Applications

Its application covers outdoor construction and needs that demand a strong material.

These uses include:

  • Erecting canopies of all kinds on streets, bridges, and tunnels
  • As housing skylights and patio awning/overhang
  • Aquariums and greenhouse construction
  • As highway sound barriers
  • Partitioning office spaces and cubicles
  • Making bullet-proof police shields

Reviewing the Differences in Characteristics

Light Transmission

PMMA can allow 92% of the natural light. This means it has a high transparency ratio. Where the work requires a transparent material, it is the best bet. Since the light transmission level of the PC is only 88%.

Level of Flammability

How do these two thermoplastics respond to high temperatures? Well, the PC has a pretty clean record. It can withstand high temperatures, so it is fit for use as safety glass. Contrary, PMMA is brittle and cracks or burns at high temperatures. At 160 degrees Celsius, it liquefies and burns to release carbon IV oxide and water at 450 degrees.

Easy to Fabricate

Still, on heat resistance, acrylic sheets can melt faster. They are flexible for molding into complex shapes. This adds to the endless possibilities of what you can create with this plastic sheet.

Ease of Use

Using standard tools is easy and more manageable on acrylic sheets than polycarbonate sheets. They are also more chemical resistant when cleaning with detergents.

Impact Resistance

Though both products are very tough in comparison to glass, PC can stand higher impact forces.

Color Versatility

Plexiglas has a wide range of colors. Even though the PC comes with a broad range of standard colors, they are not as versatile.

Sensitivity to Weather Elements

With constant exposure to the weather elements like UV, PC begins to turn into a dull yellow color. But, the Plexiglas maintains its color.

Edge Appearance

Acrylic has transparent edges that can be easy to polish to achieve a shiny, smooth surface. It is hard to polish the PC sheets.

Cost

The average price for polycarbonate sheets is 35% more than that of the acrylic sheets.

Final Thoughts

Acrylic plastic sheets are a lighter alternative for glass. Polycarbonate is the option for impact resistance. Although they may have similar applications, the two target different markets.

The choice you make depends on what you are looking for in your plastic sheet. For a cheap, clear, and scratch-resistant material then, acrylic best suits those needs. But for strong sheets that cannot crack when drilling, PC plastic is the way to go.

But, when Plexiglas laminates polycarbonate it produces a superior sheet. One that has the strength of a PC and the scratch resistance of acrylic plastic. The manufacture of police shields sometimes uses this kind of sheet combo. Where the PC will stop the bullet and the acrylic covering keeps it scratch-free.

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